New England Lighthouses: A Virtual Guide
Gould Island Light
Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island
Gould Island Light main page / History / Bibliography / Postcards

History
  Jeremy D'Entremont. Do not reproduce any part of this website without permission of the author.

Gould Island, in the East Passage of Narragansett Bay near Conanicut Island, was once known by the Indian name Aquopimokuk. It was owned by the sachem Koskotop until he sold it to Thomas Gould in 1657.

The island first had a lighted beacon operated by the Fall River Steamship Line in 1887. This light, near the north end of the island, was unreliable. Complaints led Congress to appropriate $10,000 for a proper lighthouse and fog bell.

The 30-foot brick lighthouse was finished in 1889, with a keeper's house located about 30 feet away.

The lantern held a fifth-order Fresnel lens, exhibiting a white flash every 10 seconds. A fog bell with a striking mechanism was also installed in 1889. The first keeper, Edmund Taylor, had for a time been the operator of the privately maintained beacon on the island.

Plans for Gould's Island Light
Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard Academy Library

In 1901 there were complaints that trees blocked the light from the south. Many trees were cut down, but the problem persisted. In 1932, the Bureau of Lighthouses attempted to solve the dilemma by erecting a skeleton tower on the south end of the island.

Jack Laresen, a native of Sweden, was keeper for 17 years beginning in 1923. Larsen had run away to sea at the age of 16 and served aboard the U.S.S. Concord with Admiral Dewey in Manila.

In 1947, the lighthouse was replaced by an automatic acetylene gas light on a skeleton tower and the last regular keeper was removed. The light was looked after by personnel from the Coast Guard station at Castle Hill in Newport. The 1889 lighthouse was razed in 1960.

The Navy acquired Gould Island in 1918 to expand the torpedo experiments it was conducting at Newport Harbor's Goat Island. By 1920, the island had several buildings used for the storage of torpedoes and warheads, as well as barracks for a detatchment of Marines. In 1921 hangars were added for aircraft used in experiments for launching torpedoes from the air.

The north end of the island is still being used by the Navy. The state of Rhode Island acquired 17 acres in the middle of the island, now a wildlife management area.

On October 24, 1988, the base crumbled and the skeleton tower fell over. An automatic light on a skeleton tower remains in use today at the south end of the island, appearing on light lists as Gould Island South Light. The oil house from the station can still be seen from the Newport Bridge.

You can read more about this lighthouse in the book The Lighthouses of Rhode Island by Jeremy D'Entremont.


Keepers: (This list is a work in progress. If you have any information on the keepers of this lighthouse, I'd love to hear from you. You can email me at nelights@gmail.com. Anyone copying this list onto another web site does so at their own risk, as the list is always subject to updates and corrections.)

Edmund Taylor (1889-at least 1909); John (Jack) Larsen (1923-1940)

Last updated 12/22/11
  Jeremy D'Entremont. Do not reproduce any part of this website without permission of the author.

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